Factors That Shape Our Perception

The factors that contribute to creating our perception (way of looking at the self, situations, people, etc.) are our memories, experiences, beliefs, values, people, places, situations and time. Out of all these factors there are two which are chiefly responsible for creating our perception: our beliefs and our experiences.

The first thing you should do is have a clearer perception of yourself. You should develop the perception of who you really are and what your true identity is. This does not refer to the image you see every day in the mirror. Your external appearance or physical beauty, your age, your gender, your occupation, your status in society should not be the basis for your self-perception. You may live with others or alone, have a family, run a business or have a job, which you undertake with responsibility. What is your conscience, however, while you are doing these tasks? This will lead you to a clear perception of yourself.

We have been brought up and conditioned to have a perception of everything that is external: perception of other people at the workplace or in the family, of other countries, of movies, of the country’s cricket team, of what our neighbors are doing, of the government and so on. However, the last thing we have a perception of is ourselves. We thus lose the internal link with our own happiness and our own peace. When we re-establish the perception of our true identity (the correct way of looking at ourselves) based on spiritual knowledge, we are capable of recognizing all the false beliefs about ourselves that have taken root in our inner selves. When we discover these beliefs we are capable of recognizing those sanskars of ourselves we need to change.

If someone believes that Indians are very generous, good-hearted people, and they have this ingrained in their subconscious, this thought will form part of their perception of India. Perhaps not only part of their perception: they may even identify fully with this belief. In other words, the thought becomes a belief and finally one identifies with the belief. The same holds true for any negative belief about anything or anyone.

There are four main criteria that may influence how our perception of reality is distorted or altered (changed). These are:

Mental Positioning
Mental position is the internal position from which we see situations, and may be positive or negative.  For example, we are really excited about owning a new car, but after buying it we start worrying about where to park it, if it may be stolen or we might meet with an accident. Another example is that of the professional who has always dreamt of being promoted at work and, when he gets it, starts to fear losing it. According to our mental positioning we experience fear (a negative state of mind) or we feel confident (a positive one). A correct mental positioning broadens our conscience and improves our lives and relationships.

To live in the present in a relaxed way and planning the future with an open and optimistic view, we should be able to free ourselves from preconceived ideas and the influences that dominate our perceptions. To do this, the best mental position is that of being an impartial observer. In this way we can observe, recognize and transform (change) those thoughts, attitudes that cause us pain, anxiety and stress.

Mental Limits
It is said that the solution to important problems we face cannot be obtained in the same consciousness (state of mind) we are in when we create them (the problems) – the consciousness needs to be changed to see the solution.

Mental limits are those which we have imposed on our mind. We create these limits ourselves or they can come as a result of our education, the family environment and the society in which we live. For example, at work a mental limit is always thinking in the same way. So we always take the same decisions and get the same results. Experience itself may also generate mental limits. You think you know how to do certain things and these convictions act as mental limits. The greater the mental limitation, the greater will be resistance to change. Due to the mental limits, we usually have a series of readily prepared responses. They are excuses and justifications that provide us with poor results. We are always trying to solve problems using the same formula and this often causes stress because we cannot find the answer.

The main mental limits are related to identity. We create a very narrow and limited image of ourselves. * I am a man, * I am a woman, * I am a Christian or a Gujarati, * I’m young, * I’m old, * I am white or black. The image we have of ourselves may be limited, because we do not have sufficient knowledge of our own resources, virtues, values, and identity.  A deep investigation into our inner selves will help us to change the image we have of ourselves.

Trapped by mental limits, human beings in general only use 10 per cent of their inner potential, and the other 90 per cent is available but is not used due to oversight (overlooking) or the lack of awareness that they have it. Meditating helps us to cross these mental limits. Meditation takes us to a higher dimension over our physical identity that releases us from these limits. Throughout our lives, and especially during our childhood, many impressions are formed about ourselves, since at the very beginning of our lives we do not know who we are or who we should be, until we learn it from those around us, who are older, and who know more things and who presumably love us.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make in our lives is to refer only to the opinions of others to work out who we really are. e.g. When a parent tells a child – * You are extremely naughty, * You are ignorant or * You are lazy, the child is creating negative and false images about himself (or herself). It is quite possible that the child has said or done something wrong, but this does not mean that we label the child negatively. It was their behavior that was bad. It is important to establish the difference between – * You are a naughty child and * It is incorrect to fight with your sibling.

Due to the fact that many people label others based on their behavior  negative beliefs are created that are not based on what is true and genuine, and these beliefs may be dragged along throughout the person’s life – which then function like mental limits in the life of that person.

Associated Memories
We have many associated memories: in fact, all addictions are associated memories. For example, the cigarette addict associates many moments during the day to cigarette smoking (after lunch, while seeing someone else smoking, in the restaurant with friends, coming out of work, etc.). Another example is when we have listened to a song over and over again. If after a few years we hear it again, not only do the words and tune emerge, but also the memories associated with the song. In our relationships, associated memories create barriers when we relate to others, since the memories we associate with certain people and situations means that we nearly always see them in a specific way and do not give them the chance to change and improve. This limited and unchanged vision that we sometimes have of others leads to misunderstandings when communicating.

They are images created in advance in our intellect and which work in a sub conscious way, just like associated memories. By assuming, guessing or imagining, we create a series of assumptions that influence our perception and stop us from recognizing the reality. For example, we hear our name being discussed by a group of people and we think that people are speaking wrongly about us. If we learn to rid ourselves of a whole series of assumptions that affect our communication and relationships, our perception of reality will not be distorted or altered (changed). The best way of eliminating these preconceptions is through open, concise and precise communication in order to clear up any misunderstandings.

3 thoughts on “Factors That Shape Our Perception

  1. Thanks so much for following me on Cold, Elza 🙂

  2. Emma says:

    Christ, hats off. What a piece! Eloquently and sussinctly put.

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